The growing need for robots in service tasks, in unstructured environments, in contact with humans, is leading to release the basic assumption of rigid parts in robotics. The role of soft body parts appears clear in natural organisms, to increase adaptability and robustness. Compliance, or softness, are also needed for implementing the principles of embodied intelligence, or morphological computation, a modern view of intelligence, attributing a stronger role to the physical body and its interaction with the environment.
Current research in Soft Robotics concerns the design and developed of a soft-bodied robot inspired to the octopus, an ideal model for soft robotics and morphological computation. By investigating the principles of octopus dexterity, this research led to a soft-bodied robot, based broadly on the anatomy of the octopus 8-arm body, with locomotion and grasping (EU OCTOPUS IP, www.octopusproject.eu).
Evolution of the OCTOPUS prototypes. The 8-arm robot has been exhibited Science Museum in London (Right).
The OCTOPUS soft robotics technologies are being exploited in biomedical applications, in building a soft endoscope for minimally invasive surgery (EU STIFF-FLOP IP, www.stiff-flop.eu), and for developing physical models and simulator of pre-term infants' lungs and oh human larynx.
The OCTOPUS soft robotics technologies are being exploited in marine robotics, as well, in building a soft robot for underwater explorations (PoseiDRONE Project, supported by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmi di Livorno).
Soft robotics is not just a new direction of technological development, but a novel approach to robotics, unhinging its fundamentals, with the potential to produce a new generation of robots, in the support of humans in our natural environments.
Further reading: Soft Robotics at IEEE Robotics & Automation Society
RoboSofthas been featured in the Future & Emerging Technologies (FET) Newsletter in November 2014
See also Neuromorphological Computation Area
members of the Soft Robotics group:
- Matteo Cianchetti, Assistant Professor
- Laura Margheri, Post-Doc Research Assistant
- Francesco Giorgio-Serchi, Post-Doc Research Assistant
- Marcello Calisti, Post-Doc Research Assistant
- Maurizio Follador, PhD Student
- Federico Renda, PhD Student
- Michele Giorelli, PhD Student
- Andrea Arienti, Research Assistant
- Alessia Licofonte, Research Assistant
- Francesco Rogai, Research Assistant
- Ilaria Baldoni, Research Assistant